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You are safe, says Ontario attorney general

November 18, 2008 02:09 IST

Ontario Attorney-General Chris Bentley said the murder of 45-year old Suja John, 45, and her mother Saramma Varghese, allegedly by a sex-offender out on bail, was "a very tragic case."

In answer to a question about reassuring the safety of the community in Toronto, Bentley responded: "We are absolutely determined to make sure such tragedies don't happen again." 

He would not comment on how Nathaniel O'Brien was released on bail and why the community where he was to live was not informed about it."As I said several times in the legislature, I… am not permitted to comment on matters relating to these specific allegations in the case. It is important for the prosecution to proceed in this matter… without any interference," Bentley said.

Progressive Conservative Leader in the Ontario legislature Bob Runciman moved a motion asking for a public inquiry into this case. The ruling Liberal Party voted against it. 

When asked why he was against a public inquiry into the case, Bentley referred to a statement by Toronto police chief Bill Blair. "His [Blair's] position was that what we need to do is to concentrate on action that needs to be taken to improve public safety and that is our position," Bentley said. "We are determined to stop the revolving door justice to the extent it is within the power of the Ontario government… We are going to take action at the bail stage, at the sentencing stage and the parole and after parole stage to make sure that the dangerous and violent [people] don't get out."

Bentley said the government had moved to ensure greater safety: There are more police officers on the streets and more Crown attorneys dedicated to violent crimes.

"We have pushed the federal government for changes to the bail laws and changes in the sentencing laws to deal with crime issues and there are some other changes that we are working to change the federal legislation," Bentley added.He referred to a criminal law bill introduced in the House of Commons last year. It couldn't be passed by the time the federal election was called last month. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper supports tougher sentences for underage violent offenders. He wants them tried in adult courts. 
Asked for his comments, Bentley said, "I want to wait and see what forms the proposals would take when the legislation is actually introduced. Over the past year, I had a number of discussions with the federal government to change the young offenders act… We agreed with some proposed changes and some we thought didn't go far enough. We will continue talking with the federal government about that."

Bentley was emphatic that the federal government's initiative "will have the effect all of us want — to actually keep the dangerous and violent people off the streets, to make sure that the people are not out on the streets after bail or at the sentencing or after they finish the sentence without the necessary supervision they need."

But, he continued, "we don't want the laws to be such that people who can be rehabilitated, people who do not represent a danger to the society, are prevented from being rehabilitated by the law."

He has met Sara, 20, the only surviving member of the victims' family. "I have spoken with her," he said. "We have the Victim witness assistance program and that program assists those who have terrible tragedy such as this and they can help her identify means of further assistance. I want to make sure the assistance that's needed would be available."

Ajit Jain in Toronto